New Minds

Chancellor’s Message: Research Day 2010

“New Minds” Education for 2020 Leadership is a stimulating Theme which I am sure will generate great discussion and hopefully fruitful action. Allow me to mention one aspect of ‘new minds’, the issue of mindset. Mindset refers to mentality, psyche, outlook, and ways on understanding, interpreting and responding to situations. Research in psychology is increasingly showing that mindset is a critical factor in success in several areas.

Research literature has been developing around the millionaire mindset, the warrior mindset, the victim mindset, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. One of the leaders in research on mindset is Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University.  Dweck reports that her research found that what children think about their intelligence is more important in determining success in school than their actual scores on IQ tests. Students could be grouped into two basic categories. Those who believed that their intelligence was fixed, that is, that they were bright or dumb and that there was little that they could do about it and those who believed that they could learn and improve if they worked hard.

 

Dweck found that students with a Fixed Mindset, and considered themselves bright, adopted an approach in which they tried to look smart at all cost. Mistakes were signs of deficiencies. Mistakes were glossed over with little effort to correct them. Hard work was seen as evidence of low ability. On the other hand, students with a Growth mindset accepted and confronted their deficiencies worked hard and were persistent when taking on challenges.

One important conclusion drawn by Dweck is that the Growth Mindset can be cultivated and developed. One way of doing this is to praise students more for processes they employed in obtaining grades than for the grades themselves.

The critical question is, why does the Growth Mindset work? The Growth Mindset works through two principal mechanisms. First, the Growth Mindset works through the well-documented mechanism of the self-fulfilling prophecy. It declares a state that does not yet exist and then works hard and persistently to bring that state to past. Secondly, brain research and cognitive science are revealing that as we continue to learn the brain makes more connections that facilitate more and better learning. In other words, intelligence is not fixed. You can become smarter through effort and hard work.

By contrast, the Fixed Mindset does not work because it is based on the falsehood that intelligence is a fixed quantity that we receive and cannot be increased. As important, the Fixed Mindset promotes fatalism by implying that hurdles encountered in learning are indications of the limit of intelligence.

By inference, it could well be that the education that is devised for developing “New Minds” for 2020 Leadership could be more important than however “New Minds” are defined.

 

Professor Emeritus the Honourable Errol Miller

Chancellor